Greater Greater Washington

Transit


Bikeshare could make transit to Old Town a real option

Alexandria is getting 8 Capital Bikeshare stations, and they can't come soon enough. Greater Greater Wife and I travel to Old Town moderately often, and the sad fact is that getting there and getting around without a car is far too difficult.


Photo by afagen on Flickr.

The Metro will get you to Braddock Road or King Street at the edge of Old Town, but most of the destinations in Old Town, including the person we usually visit, are just enough farther east that a walk will take a while.

The DASH buses, unfortunately, have not proven to be a really workable option. Mid-days, most of them run every 30 minutes. There is not yet any real-time tracking, and buses don't hew precisely to the schedule.

That means you could get to a bus stop just about the time a bus is supposed to arrive, wait 12 minutes, and have no idea whether you'd just missed a slightly early bus or are still waiting for a 15-minute late bus.

Sadly, this means we usually drive. Greater Greater Wife tried transit to get back from Alexandria last week, waited for over 10 minutes at the bus stop, then gave up and got a cab to the Metro. Just after she gave up on the bus, she saw the late bus pass by.

The Mount Vernon Trail is a great option for those who want a vigorous workout, but not everyone can do it. Plus, connections from DC to the trail need a lot of work. I've biked one way and then biked to the Metro a few times.

Capital Bikeshare will add many new options. For visitors to Alexandria like us, it can serve as the "last mile" connections from Metro to destinations in Old Town (and, in the future, other neighborhoods like Del Ray). The walkable parts of the city are large enough that sometimes that last mile really is a mile.

Besides stations at Braddock Road and King Street Metros, there will only be 6 other stations. Those will serve a number of Old Town destinations, but Alexandria leaders should also start budgeting for a second round of expansion, including more in Old Town and some in surrounding neighborhoods, as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, the city also needs a better DASH system or at least some real-time tracking. It's great that Alexandria has its own buses in addition to Metrobus, but the fact is that such an infrequent bus system without any real-time information is not a real option for those with a choice of other modes.

David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

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I wouldn't be so quick to discount the accessibility of Old Town Alexandria. Between the King Street Trolley, and the other buses that make their way through Old Town, I've never felt like transit options are lacking. You can always count on the trolley to leave every 15 minutes (during its hours of operation), and you can use NextBus to catch a Metrobus 10 route from Braddock Road. Personally, I've always enjoyed the walk down King Street, ane I've even found that its easy to keep pace with DASH buses walking east what with all the traffic lights.

That's not to say that Capital Bikeshare won't be a huge asset to Old Town. There's also room for improvement in the trolley's hours of operation and pedestrian access to King Street Station coming from Old Town.

by Aaron on Aug 27, 2012 1:52 pm • linkreport

The 10 is another 30 minutes at midday bus, which I consider far too infrequent. But yes, that one has NextBus, if only it were going to the part of Old Town we needed. We were going to North Old Town so the King Street trolley isn't an option.

by David Alpert on Aug 27, 2012 2:01 pm • linkreport

So you absolutely refuse to use a bus that doesn't use real-time tracking? You'd rather just drive through one of the most walkable areas in the region? You gave up after waiting 10 minutes for a bus? What?!

by andrewi31 on Aug 27, 2012 2:10 pm • linkreport

andrewi31: I'll probably drive somewhere rather than rely on an every-30-minute bus without real-time tracking, yes. "Absolutely refuse?" No, it depends on the circumstance, but I'm very unlikely to plan a trip around it.

Local governments need to realize than an every-30-minute bus is not an adequate substitute. Real-time tracking could make it more palatable in some cases. But Metro to Capital Bikeshare is a far more attractive alternative to driving than Metro to every-30-minute bus.

by David Alpert on Aug 27, 2012 2:27 pm • linkreport

I agree that North Old Town is somewhat difficult to reach, especially coming fron DC. One solution would be to change the routing of the planned Del Ray Trolley (http://www.alexandriava.gov/news_display.aspx?id=62152). Instead of serving Braddock Road Station then simply ending at King Street Station, the route could continue to Washington Street, and terminate near where Washington Street and King Street meet. That would provide a connection to the King Street Trolley, connect Del Ray closer to the core of Old Town, and beef up service to North Old Town. Throw expanded bikeshare in there and what more could you ask for!

by Aaron on Aug 27, 2012 2:29 pm • linkreport

Riding the bus is great, waiting for the bus sucks. And every 30 minutes is basically admitting that the bus will get there when it gets there so yeah it's only really feasible if you have absolutely no other options. Same goes for the train as well.

by drumz on Aug 27, 2012 2:39 pm • linkreport

As someone who has lived in Old Town (about a mile east of the King Street station) and biked/taken Metro downtown for commute purposes for 6 years, and been totally car-free for two, some of these pre-suppositions and negative language really baffle me.

For starters, the headline suggests that transit to Old Town is not currently a real option--something that is news to most people I know who live/play here. Most people (with the exception of those who live in DC's core and tend to have major blinders or outright prejudice against to life outside the District aka Where There Be Dragons) are pretty impressed with the options and wish they had such a variety themselves.

Which line did you find infrequent? Most lines run every half hour through the day and more frequently during the rush, which isn't great but isn't bad. In addition, the various lines overlap so the end result is that the buses are staggered. They may take a different route to get you to the Metro, but they'll all go there. Same with the trolley which is free and runs every 15 minutes. Yes, it is only east-west from the Metro so if your friends live significantly north/south from King Street (the street, not station) it will be of limited assistance.

It really is astonishing that you'd think it's not a “real option” as it is now. Could it be better? Sure. Any transit option for any neighborhood could be better than it is now. It is as good as the urban core? Depends on where you want to go, but generally no (though transit within Alexandria itself is good. But I'm assuming that you're talking to/from DC). Is it better than a lot of neighborhoods in the area, including those in the District itself? You bet. Do I consider it a pain in the neck to get around without a car on occasion? You bet. Frequently enough to consider buying a car again? Never. Even frequently enough to up my ZipCar membership a level. Nope.

I don't think that starting out with 6 is a massive coup nor do I think it's a failing. Arlington started out with 14, and that juristiction is twice the population covering more than twice the area.
And...connections to the Mount Vernon Trail from DC? They rely on bridges so the connectivity there is somewhat limited, as it is with cars and trains. But, there are separated paths for walkers and bikers on all the bridges that carry cars. Is your issue a matter of wayfinding? Of the fact that a lot of the roads around the bridges are busy and not entirely bike friendly?

I don’t even understand this complaint. Personally, I've always found that in my bike trips back and forth to DC, hands down the absolute most difficult and least enjoyable part is actually riding on DC streets. Not enough bike lanes, not enough connectivity within the city etc. But finding the 14th Street Bridge....it never even occurred to me that this could be difficult for someone with a basic sense of direction and the ability to see a giant bridge.

by Catherine on Aug 27, 2012 2:42 pm • linkreport

Alexandria resident, long time GGW reader & supporter, Cabi member and supporter.
Regarding Old Town buses and transit, your post seems a bit whiney. DASH is more frequent than you're saying, and many routes overlap at segments. And yes there is the "trolley". Also there is no single "10", there are multiples, most of which have overlapping segments as well, and within Old Town 10A and 10B follow the same route, so they're more frequent than 30 minutes. North Old Town, wherever that is, is served by 5 FIVE! Dash bus routes that run along Pendleton Street or points farther north. And I'm not including the 9 and 11 buses, which might make better sense depending on your final destination. For out of towners, you're usually better off to get a bus at Braddock and get off at the corner of Washington & King, rather than getting off at King and schelpping the entire length of King.

Cabi will be a welcome addition to Alexandria, but Alexandria is not lacking for very good transit service. No you are not going to have buses with 5 minute headways, but thats not the case with most places.

by spookiness on Aug 27, 2012 2:45 pm • linkreport

Saw your comment about your friends living in North Old Town. Your first problem is using King Street Station. Braddock Road is the station to use for that part of town because it is closer and has more bus lines that service that area. But if they're a mile from King Street Station and in North Old Town, my guess is that they're a very short walk from Braddock Road Station.

In terms of the NextBus? I don't know....I don't find that to be all too helpful with Metrobuses (which during the year I worked in Crystal City, I took frequently). With buses, even those in the urban core, you just have to know that the timetable is an estimate and usually it will be close, and sometimes you're going to get screwed.

by Catherine on Aug 27, 2012 2:51 pm • linkreport

Just saw the poll at the bottom of the article from the morning links about the Alexandria CaBi station.

http://delray.patch.com/articles/alexandria-to-begin-capital-bikeshare-installation-on-monday

Who do you think will primarily use Capital Bikeshare in Alexandria?

Alexandria residents
Tourists
Not sure

Apparently, it escapes the DelRay Patch that there are also commuters to and through Alexandria who are not residents, nor tourists. Do they consider themselves tourists when they wonder into DC?

by Jasper on Aug 27, 2012 3:13 pm • linkreport

in geneneral I find walking and transit work great in Old Town. But there are certainly some OD pairs where CaBi will come in real handy - and I think DA, despite the tone, simply identified one. And yeah, while I like DASH bus, its RELATIVE infrequency could add to the demand for CaBi.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 27, 2012 3:27 pm • linkreport

While I agree that not everyone can bike between DC and Alexandria, particularly if the weather is foul, it's what, 9ish miles? I frequently do the slightly shorter distance to Potomac Yard to combine shopping with fresh air-getting. It's totally flat and takes less than an hour at a not-working-up-a-sweat pace. Hardly a "vigorous" workout, and it's much more relaxing (and healthy) than a metro ride or driving and trying to find a parking spot.

Now that Old Town has CaBi, there really needs to be a station along the MVT, like at 4 Mile Run or something. Combine that with one at Potomac Yard and commuters/errand runners would have a seriously viable alternative to bus/metro.

by MM on Aug 27, 2012 3:34 pm • linkreport

Say what you will about Old Town buses but I predict that Cabi will be such a large improvement over buses that those stations will constantly be facing the problems of dock-blocking and no-bikes.

by Falls Church on Aug 27, 2012 4:03 pm • linkreport

@MM:

(And let me preface this by saying that I'm not a cyclist, so I may have some batty ideas.)

I've thought that CaBi should consider expanding even further down the MVT once Old Town comes on board. There are a couple of wayside parks along the Parkway where a bike station could work. In particular, I think it would be a wise idea to put one in Belle Haven Park, so that people who live in the condominium community there can use it. At least one further down towards Mount Vernon, and one at Mount Vernon proper - those might be primarily recreational, but still.

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Aug 27, 2012 4:30 pm • linkreport

Took two photos this morning of the installations at S. Union and Prince, and Market Square.

http://jay.typepad.com/william_jay/2012/08/capital-bikeshare-set-for-old-town-alexandria-debut.html

by Jay Roberts on Aug 27, 2012 4:36 pm • linkreport

Very glad to see CaBi coming to Old Town at last! I'm not a resident of Alexandria either, but I plan to use those bikes and stations frequently.

by Michael H. on Aug 27, 2012 4:41 pm • linkreport

Old Town is a great place for visitors to stroll around, from rails to river, discovering all that the core of the City of Alexandria.

But for folks that have a specific destination and a timetable, strolling isn’t always a convenient option. Since DASH doesn’t participate in NextBus, it’s usually completely off my radar screen. WMATA buses bunch (particularly southbound into Old Town). The trolley helps some but I haven’t had much luck with it. Biking is often the most pragmatic choice for local travel, but not when I arrive in Alexandria by Metro without my bike. I’m excited that CaBi is finally coming to Alexandria to offer this option at King St and Braddock Road stations.

That said, I don’t see CaBi helping very much the infrequent visitor to Old Town. King Street, the path obvious to visitors, is too narrow and too congested to be welcoming to most recreational cyclists. Prince St, perhaps the most logical route east from the Metro, is completely obscured from view by the King Street Exchange complex. You really have to know it's there to find it.

I’m fairly optimistic that CaBi will be popular with able-bodied Alexandrians who tire of waiting on untrackable DASH buses, bunched up WMATA coaches and dealing with Old Town parking challenges. I just hope the eight-station pilot can generate enough interest to validate rapid expansion to Del Ray, Arlandria and Potomac Yard so I can stop whining too.

by Sean on Aug 27, 2012 4:47 pm • linkreport

The problem with placing CaBi at a place as far-flung as Mt Vernon is that you run the risk of trapping people there with no way to get home. People could chance a ride there but what if all the bikes are gone when you want to leave? There's no transit service. It could also create balancing problems if people leave the bikes there (though I don't know how they would get back).

If people want to use them for really long trips that's fine, but I don't think we should be dotting bikeshare stations along trails to facilitate that. Pay the (high) time charges or rent a bike and roll if you want a long-term rental.

by MLD on Aug 27, 2012 4:49 pm • linkreport

Catherine: Just to be clear, I was using Braddock Road.

Where we were, there was only 1 nearby DASH bus and it comes every 30 minutes. A few block walk could get you to another DASH, but which one? We were on the AT5. Do you walk a few blocks north to the AT2, or a few blocks south to the AT4? Or over to the water which has more DASHes but is the wrong direction? Or a few blocks west to the 10 Metrobus?

By the standards of most cities, Alexandria's transit is much better; at least they have a lot of buses. But I want to see transit good enough and easy to use enough that someone unfamiliar with it, in an unfamiliar place, can get where they need to go.

Having someone wait on a street corner and maybe at some point a bus will come by is not something you can tell someone. If I suggest someone use the bus, and they wait and while and then give up and take a cab, the bus system is not functioning as it needs to.

It's not just Alexandria. There are plenty of places in DC that have the same problem, where GGWife or other people I know have tried the bus but then given up because of a NextBus ghost bus, because they didn't know where to wait, or other reasons.

Buses can be really hard to use. We need to find ways to make them better. And provide other options like CaBi.

by David Alpert on Aug 27, 2012 4:59 pm • linkreport

Minor correction MLD, there is transit at Mt Vernon. A few lines actually, heading back towards Huntington. Even after it is closed, you can get back to the Metro quite easily on Fairfax Connector.

Why would you say there isn't if you don't know?

Sure Virginia does not have the best transit in the world (although Old Town is better than pretty much anywhere in DC), but a lot of these attitudes come from stereotypes or ignorance.

by andrewi31 on Aug 27, 2012 5:10 pm • linkreport

"Buses can be really hard to use."

No, they are really easy. But the bus system isn't set up for "exploring" new towns or enhancing tourism.

Again, the orginial idea for Circulator was to build a bus system for tourists to get around, although the idea has been hijacked.

by charlie on Aug 27, 2012 5:28 pm • linkreport

DA

the dash buses mostly take people from the metro stations to the lower density residential areas to the west of the metro line. Transit along king street isnt bad, between the trolley and multiple (IIRC) DASH routes.

The northern pocket of old town is sort of an odd place that isnt well served. And is traditionally somewhat autocentric. Of course if you LIVE in that area, and don't want to drive, you can take your own bike to the metro and park it there.

Going from DC, to that corner of OT, without a car, is somewhat of a niche market. Yes Cabi (and I beleive some bus improvements Alex is contemplating) will help. I think people are reacting (rightfully) to the implication of the headline that Old Town is generally not transit friendly.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 27, 2012 5:32 pm • linkreport

Again, the orginial idea for Circulator was to build a bus system for tourists to get around, although the idea has been hijacked.

Well, not really. Building a bus that's easy to use was part of the tourist market. The Circulator has shown that the market for 'buses that are easy to use' is much deeper.

And you denigrate the bus by implying that making it easy to use only serves tourists - the DASH example David uses shows that the barriers to entry really affect infrequent users, of which tourists are a subset.

AWalker,

I think people are reacting (rightfully) to the implication of the headline that Old Town is generally not transit friendly.

That's not what the headline implies (though it might be what the ol' civic chip-on-the-shoulder reads) at all - the headline implies that the current transit service has huge room for improvement. And, it does.

by Alex B. on Aug 27, 2012 5:37 pm • linkreport

I've lived in Old Town for 25 years and have been a cyclist for longer than that.
The placement of the station at Prince & Unions is in the absolutely worst possible place. There are tour buses and the trolley(w/ incompetent drivers) making a left turn from Union St onto Prince St to go 100 feet and make another left turn to follow the block to King St. It is already as close to a nightmare as possible. It would have been much safer to place the bike station 1 block east on Prince, down by the river. Not to mention that there are 2 shops that rent bikes within 100 feet of the station. Big Wheel Bikes has been there for 25 or 30 years and a new shop that only rents bikes.
It makes you wonder if the city council even thought about any of the issues that jumping on the popular/trendy bikeshare bandwagon would have on this extremely congested area.
Disgusted.

by Beau Mountcastle on Aug 27, 2012 6:16 pm • linkreport

@Beau

Closer to the river is closer to the flooding.

by Jay Roberts on Aug 27, 2012 6:52 pm • linkreport

You could also take the 9A and 10A WMATA buses into the heart of Old Town Alexandria.

by NS on Aug 27, 2012 7:28 pm • linkreport

@ David.

I assumed you were talking about the King Street station because most of the CaBi stations will be along the general King Street stretch. Now for DASH buses, the AT 4 2 and 5 all go in the general North Old Town direction--not knowing precisely where you were trying to get, I can't be sure any or all of them would have met your needs.

Bikes are for sure the best way around this town. I’ve been saying it for years, and I just don’t understand how more people don’t get it. When I don't ride my bike all the way downtown, I ride it to the Metro, and on the few occasions when I haven't done that and need to walk or bus home I get annoyed by the buses (I’m not used to waiting at all because I’ve got my bike most of the time). When I first moved here, the buses were a total mystery. I once I wound up shivering in a snowdrift in Parkfairfax trying to figure out how to call a cab to get me home (no internet on my phone back then!). To be fair, though, I've also been brought to tears trying to get to Sibley Hospital from downtown via transit (something I have to do every other month), but now that I've done it a few times, it's second nature to me, just like my local bus system is.

I think what you've identified is the general difficulty in getting around a place you don't know well, but are framing it as a deficiency in the place and its system rather than your own problem--poor planning, poor map reading, low patience, whatever. Yes, again, it could be better. Maybe NextBus would solve all problems (though, again, I have found that to be of seriously limited use for me and my use of Metrobus, but to each their own).

When you drive, do you look up directions beforehand or do you solely rely on GPS? I stopped being a regular driver before GPS was a "thing", and had to Mapquest directions before just about every trip (new to the area). Now, it would be much easier had I had a GPS back then but I don't think I'd have learned my way around as well as I did. Perhaps this new way of travel (having GPS guide you around) is changing people’s mentality? People don't plan trips to unfamiliar places beforehand anymore? Just a thought.

by Catherine on Aug 27, 2012 7:44 pm • linkreport

I agree that BikeShare will be a tremendous boost for Old Town Alexandria. It will help the area reach the critical mass of bike users necessary to create a truly bike-friendly culture.
As to DASH, the City is actively trying to grow its bus fleet so that headways will be reduced. However, older buses must be replaced and funds are limited.
On a more positive note, the Trolley service in Old Town is being expanded to Del Ray and Arlandria. Plus, something on the same scale as the Trolley might be implemented on other east-west routes in Old Town to give residents better access to the Metro stations.
All-in-all, Old Town Alexandria has a lot of transit options. In a few years, we should have even more.

by Kevin H. Posey on Aug 27, 2012 8:27 pm • linkreport

@alex

the headline says bikeshare will make transit to old town a real option. It is ALREADY a real option - an incredibly easy one for the employment centers right by the metro stations, and a fairly easy one for most of the residential area, and for the nightlife on king street. Bike share will make it MORE of an option especially for the pockets which are neither close to metro nor have good bus service. But they will NOT MAKE transit an option.

And as for civic pride, I happen to live in Fairfax county.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 27, 2012 8:43 pm • linkreport

I have to agree with several other writers who were a bit insulted by your suggestion that transit to Old Town is not already a real option. On top of everything else, the DASH buses provide full timetables in booklet form at both Metro stations and on the buses.

The addition of Capital Bikeshare does little along the King Street axis where five of the stations overlap the existing trolley route and two of the regular DASH routes. (Three if you count the AT8 which runs along Duke.) And the Pendleton axis stops are a relatively minor addition which barely adds to the AT3/4 or 5 routes.

There are plenty of locations in Alexandria where the addition of Capital Bikeshare might actually help the "last mile" problem - along Mount Vernon Avenue, along Slaters Lane, and possibly in the Carlyle area, but this addition should not be touted as the end-all to Alexandria having a transit option, when Alexandria's transit - particularly in Old Town - is already better than many of the District's neighborhoods and certainly better than a lot of Arlington.

by Craig on Aug 27, 2012 9:59 pm • linkreport

I have grown to hate the 9 and 10 buses. In theory they are great - from Del Ray to Old Town or back every 15 minutes. In reality you are just as likely to have a 45 minute wait as a 10 minute one. Plus I got hit with a phantom bus on Sunday. I decided to walk then got caught in a downpour.

I am close to saying no to the bus for a year. If CABI comes to the Del Ray Farmer's Market then it would be a good alternative for me.

by movement on Aug 27, 2012 10:31 pm • linkreport

In the age of smartphones that can usually tell you when the next WMATA bus is due, the DASH booklet is a quaint anachronism. It's overkill when all you need to know it how long the wait till the next bus and while it's generally available at Metro stations, you won't find it along the route.

One nice thing about CaBi is that it frees one from the tyranny of mysterious, infrequent, unreliable, inconsistent and misleading schedules. Ditto to the call for more stations at Slaters Lane, Mt Vernon Ave, in the Carlyle. The more destinations that CaBi supports, the more folks are likely to think of it for local trips.

by Sean on Aug 27, 2012 11:56 pm • linkreport

AWalker,

the headline says bikeshare will make transit to old town a real option. It is ALREADY a real option - an incredibly easy one for the employment centers right by the metro stations,

The article is clearly talking about the parts of Alexandria that are not adjacent to the Metro stations.

and a fairly easy one for most of the residential area, and for the nightlife on king street.

"Fairly easy" is rather nebulous. Regardless of what one thinks about that, the point is there is room for improvement.

Bike share will make it MORE of an option especially for the pockets which are neither close to metro nor have good bus service. But they will NOT MAKE transit an option.

Sure it will. That's one of Bikeshare's best assets, is the ability to work as a last-mile and first-mile solution for transit.

And as for civic pride, I happen to live in Fairfax county.

I wasn't directing that at you specifically, but I think a lot of the comments here defending the status quo are awfully thin-skinned and unwilling to accept a bit of (rather obvious) constructive criticism.

by Alex B. on Aug 28, 2012 7:44 am • linkreport

Alex

Is anyone defending the status quo? I see no one objecting to either Cabi, or to expansion and improvement of bus routes in Old Town. Just responding to a the headline.

"The article is clearly talking about the parts of Alexandria that are not adjacent to the Metro stations."

Yes. but that is NOT what the headline says.

"That's one of Bikeshare's best assets, is the ability to work as a last-mile and first-mile solution for transit."

Which is why I said

"Bike share will make it MORE of an option especially for the pockets which are neither close to metro nor have good bus service."

There is a difference between IMPROVING last/first mile access and creating it.

Sure Cabi will IMPROVE access. Just as Nats Park SPED up development in near SE. Saying "cabi makes transit to old town an option" is as misleading a headline as one reading "Ball park makes development in near SE an option"

.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 28, 2012 9:18 am • linkreport

Yes. but that is NOT what the headline says.

So what? Read beyond the headline. The headline isn't wrong or misleading at all. David wrote:

The DASH buses, unfortunately, have not proven to be a really workable option. Mid-days, most of them run every 30 minutes. There is not yet any real-time tracking, and buses don't hew precisely to the schedule.

That means you could get to a bus stop just about the time a bus is supposed to arrive, wait 12 minutes, and have no idea whether you'd just missed a slightly early bus or are still waiting for a 15-minute late bus.

Sadly, this means we usually drive.

Would inserting 'workable' into the headline soothe these sensibilities?

There is a difference between IMPROVING last/first mile access and creating it.

Sure there is, and there's a big difference between going further and reading the article rather than just reacting to the headline.

Sure, David's post is based on his own personal experiences - but he doesn't frame his anecdote as more than that. DASH bus service isn't reliable or predictable enough for a casual user, therefore they drive. And Bikeshare will change that equation.

by Alex B. on Aug 28, 2012 9:33 am • linkreport

You'd think that taking your own bike to King St and riding from there would have been an option before.

by charlie on Aug 28, 2012 9:35 am • linkreport

Alex

So if someone had an article with a HEADLINE that said "ballpark makes growth possible in nr SE" or "ballpark creates something to walk to in near SE" or something like that, youd be okay, as long as they explained later on it was only one factor in growth, or that while there are plenty of other places to walk to in near SE, the writer was only interested in walking in the area right near the park???

Cmon. Headlines matter, and misleading headlines (which this was) are annoying, and create negative responses. DA and this blog are generally as focused on development as on transportation - and Old Town is a good example of using location of DEVELOPMENT to leverage transit. Its not just that the buildings near the metro stations represent a small piece of activity - they represent a very large share of total employment in Old Town. And yes, a significant portion of residences are within a half miles of the metro stations. And yes, the combination of Dash buses and the "trolley" make it easy to get to the waterfront along King Street, which is almost certainly the most important activity center away from the metro stations.

Should Alex improve Dash buses for those pockets away from the metro. Sure, and thats their plan. Is it the ONLY unmet transit need in the City of Alexandria? No. There are others, some of which are, IIUC, higher priorities PRECISELY because Old Town is already well served by transit.

If you would like I will find links to the Cities ongoing studies/meetings etc on their corridors targeted for transit improvement, of which Old Town is one.

But while transit in Old Town could be improved - Old Town has better existing transit service than A. any other part of the City of Alex B. Better transit service than any other part of NoVa excluding a few parts of Arlington. C. Better transit service than many parts of DC. The implication of the headline is wrong, and that, IMO, is why it elicited the response it did.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 28, 2012 10:01 am • linkreport

@Alex B.

So what? Read beyond the headline. The headline isn't wrong or misleading at all.

The headline sets the tone and creates the "thesis", as it were, of the article. And it is both wrong and misleading. Also, we all read beyond the headline (and isn't suggesting we didn't against the Terms of Service?), and most people, myself included, took issue with the headline but agreed with the general sentiment that DASH isn't perfect. But we also disagreed with the claim (in the article, echoing the headline) that "The DASH buses, unfortunately, have not proven to be a really workable option". And you asked "Would inserting 'workable' into the headline soothe these sensibilities?" No.

They work fine for the people who take the time to figure out how to use them, even the casual rider--just like MOST transit systems. As I pointed out, it took me a few tries to get to Sibley from downtown, something I do with regularity and ease now. But you have to plan ahead. Now "working fine" isn't "works perfectly". DASH, and most transit systems, can work better but that does not also mean that they are "not really workable". "Room for improvement" does not equal "is not a real transit option". Unless it's a non-DC jurisdiction. Within DC, it's framed as "Room for improvement" or if it is an improvement it's heralded as something akin to the second coming.

And that's the problem. The majority of the time a non-DC jurisdiction has some sort of transit issue, even an improvement like CaBi, this blog frames it in the negative. It is a very clear, strong, consistent and pervasive bias in this blog. The people who call it out are not "thin skinned" or blinded by "civic pride"...they're just sick of reading ignorant, biased writing. You'd think the sheer number of people taking issue with the same point, and sharing the same counter points would clue you in to the fact that maybe we are actually correct about this. But no, the anti-Dreaded Suburbs blinders are on and heels are dug in.

If you'd rather that only people who live where you live and think how you think read and comment on this blog, say it. But if you'd rather try to keep this from becoming even more of an echo chamber than it already is, I'd suggest you listen to readers whose experiences differ from yours.

by Catherine on Aug 28, 2012 10:03 am • linkreport

They work fine for the people who take the time to figure out how to use them, even the casual rider--just like MOST transit systems.

Which is the problem with most transit systems. A really well-designed system shouldn't require a lot of effort to figure out how to use them.

This critique focuses on DASH because that's what's in the news, thanks to Bikeshare. But it applies to lots of buses in the DC region (and in the US). If Alexandrians feel singled out, then yes, that's a bit of an inferiority complex.

The people who call it out are not "thin skinned" or blinded by "civic pride"...they're just sick of reading ignorant, biased writing. You'd think the sheer number of people taking issue with the same point, and sharing the same counter points would clue you in to the fact that maybe we are actually correct about this. But no, the anti-Dreaded Suburbs blinders are on and heels are dug in.

The appeal to the 'anti-suburb blinders' is exactly the kind of chip-on-the-shoulder I'm talking about. And just because people take issue with it doesn't mean they're right.

But if you'd rather try to keep this from becoming even more of an echo chamber than it already is, I'd suggest you listen to readers whose experiences differ from yours.

Can't that point be flipped easily? If Alexandrians don't want their city to become more of an echo chamber than it already is, perhaps they should listen to commenters suggesting that their bus system isn't as functional as it could be to the widest possible audience?

by Alex B. on Aug 28, 2012 10:16 am • linkreport

Which is the problem with most transit systems. A really well-designed system shouldn't require a lot of effort to figure out how to use them.

Exactly, we agree on this. It is a problem with most transit systems. But whenever this blog discusses a non-DC juristiction it is framed as a negative as in "this doesn't work" but within DC it is "here is room for improvement". That's not a chip on my shoulder it is obvervation, over years of reading this blog. Your suggestion that I have a chip on my shoulder only further belies your underlying assumption that the non-DC juristictions are somehow "less than".

And since when is Alexandria an echo chamber? The whole city? News to me. I'm pretty sure that there are very few if any issues on which the entire city agrees, let alone any issues that all of Alexandria takes the same tone about. Trying to flip that script is school yard tactics to an extreme degree.

And is is absloutely hysterical that you think that an outsider needs to tell Alexandria that "their bus system isn't as functional as it could be to the widest possible audience". And it's even funnier that you cannot seem to grasp the point that that is not the point that people are taking objection to. Again, yes, the system could be better, much better. All systems can. No one is disagreeing on that fact.

The issue is the implication (and the statement) that it is not "a real option" and "isn't really workable". And when you have a group of people disagreeing with that, for the same reasons with the same counterpoints, ignoring them IS purposefully keeping blinders on. If it was just one person, you can consider brushing that off. But a group of people with all the same points? Brushing them off is willfully ignorant. But hey, if you want to be willfully ignorant, go right ahead. You'll still be wrong.

by Catherine on Aug 28, 2012 10:33 am • linkreport

Trying to flip that script is school yard tactics to an extreme degree.

But that's my point - isn't complaining about the headline and ignoring the substance of the argument the same schoolyard tactic?

Look: David made a conclusion based on a personal anecdote. This kind of stuff is always prone to the Fundamental Attribution Error. "Not a real option" and "not really workable" are clearly viewed through his lens. That said, none of the counterpoints (and they're not being ignored) address why his lens is a bad one. If fact, they tacitly agree! Noting that there is room for improvement in bus frequency, scheduling, routing, legibility, etc and that the potential for bikeshare is great - those all echo David's point.

You'll still be wrong.

Well, it's not really about right and wrong. It's not as if there's a correct answer here; this isn't an arithmetic problem. Instead, that's a value judgement you're making. Those with the counterpoints have valid arguments, but that doesn't make their arguments correct or incorrect. Rather, those arguments are based on a set of value judgments, and David has laid out a)why they don't work for him now, and b) how bikeshare changes that.

by Alex B. on Aug 28, 2012 10:49 am • linkreport

Trying to flip that script is school yard tactics to an extreme degree.
But that's my point - isn't complaining about the headline and ignoring the substance of the argument the same schoolyard tactic?
No, it’s taking issue with the journalistic integrity of the article and (if you see this as a pervasive problem), the whole blog. As I said, the headline sets the tone and “thesis” of the article. Besides, within the article itself was the claim that transit is not “really workable”, which people also take issue with. So it’s not just the headline, it’s the overall tone of the article. The system is not perfect, not as good as it could be, not as good as we’d like it to be, sure. But to claim that it’s not workable or not a real option is pretty ridiculous, and yes, is clearly viewed through his lens. His (apparently) inexperienced and in my opinion (based on long observation, not this one isolated incident) biased lens. So when people who actually know what they’re talking about and make counterpoints to show why his lens is a bad one are then ignored or have it chalked up to some imaginary shoulder chip displays an active choice to be willfully ignorant.
The counterpoints have been: the lines overlap and have staggered schedules. He was talking about one singular bus route, even though (depending on his destination) it is possible that he could have taken one of several. If this is the case, he was not actually using the system, or attempting to understand it, but was nonetheless complaining about it and calling it unworkable and not a real option. Another counterpoint is that Old Town has more and more frequent transit options that most of Northern Virginia (save a few areas of Arlington) and more than many neighborhoods in DC, and those aren’t considered “unworkable” or “not real options”...they’re just framed as “having room for improvement”. So why the different treatment? Again, as I said earlier, noting that there is room for improvement in several areas of a system (though not routing, I’ve personally found it ideal) does not equal “unworkable” as the article states or “not a real option” as the headline implies.

Well, it's not really about right and wrong. It's not as if there's a correct answer here; this isn't an arithmetic problem. Instead, that's a value judgement you're making. It is possible to be incorrect with a black and white statement such as "transit to this area is not a real option". That's not a nuanced statement, there. I'd say that if you are calling an area with comparatively more and better transit options than a vast swath of the area “not really an option” based on one instance of you not using a transit system correctly and then ignoring people who actually use it as an option with regularity and ease, you are just plain ol’ wrong. Sure, what’s a good, logical or “real” option will vary from person to person and maybe for David, driving is the only “real” option for getting to Old Town. But he’s in a slim minority there and is trying (through both the headline and content of the article) framing it as a state of existence for the whole area. Which is just faulty logic and…wrong.

by Catherine on Aug 28, 2012 11:37 am • linkreport

I hesitate to get into the back-and-forth, but I think part of the disconnect here is in the phrasing of the headline: "transit TO Old Town."

While I lean a little toward Catherine's interpretation of the tone of the article, I do think there are several potential users of transit, and David is representing the view of one of the less-common users, the non-resident, non-tourist. In that limited perspective, I can see the argument. But that is a fairly limited perspective, and if I had to guess, not a segment that makes up a large percentage of potential Old Town transit users, or one that would be the highest priority for transit expansion planning.

In addition, it seems that the substance of the post is actually referring to North Old Town, not the King Street-centric view of Old Town that many people think about when talking about Old Town in general (which it seems, from the comments, is much better equipped with bus/trolley options). In that case, perhaps using "North Old Town" in the headline would have also been more accurate. Sure, it's only a few blocks away, but really, we're talking about the difference of those few blocks, so maybe it would have helped.

by Jacques on Aug 28, 2012 11:41 am • linkreport

I live in neither DC nor Alexandria, but to argue that Alexandria's transportation options are good because they're better than Springfield's (or wherever) doesn't really seem like a good counter-argument to David's orginal point. Yes we can metro to two spots in old town but then you're stuck with a bus schedule that sucks. This is true in a lot of other places as well.

That said, I don't see how "being unworkable" and "room for improvement" are separate value judgments. With one being more positive than the other. Usually however when we say room for improvement that means that something has been improved where we haven't seen that with the bus system, we've just seen a possible replacement come via Bike Share.

So let's move on and try to get the buses running better because I think if David really had a problem with Alexandria he probably wouldn't visit as often as he says he does.

by drumz on Aug 28, 2012 11:54 am • linkreport

from braddock rd metro to tide lock park on the waterfront is one mile, about a 20 minute walk. While one mile is long for a commuter shed, I wouldnt think its so long that lack of CaBi makes transit not an option. And Tide Lock is definitely in north Old Town, not on King Street.

Without know exactly where DA was trying to get to, its really hard to evaluate his personal experience.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 28, 2012 12:21 pm • linkreport

I mean its giving the need for buses to navigate the streets and make multiple stops, its going to be difficult to have transit compete with walking from braddock metro to tide lock park with ANY reasonable frequency of service. And that will be true for lots of other locations in north Old Town. Which may be one reason Dash has never offered very good service to that area.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 28, 2012 12:24 pm • linkreport

Wow, lots of people on here complaining about the transit in their area being called inadequate.

The reality is that DASH has too many routes that go very near each other but don't overlap or only overlap in parts. they need to cut down the zig-zagging all over the place and consolidate the streets the routes run on - so there is higher frequency. If there are routes running down Pendleton and then going south, you don't need more routes running two blocks north - move some further away and consolidate with others so you have higher frequency even if people might have to walk an extra 700 feet.

Route map: http://www.dashbus.com/uploadedFiles/DASH-wwwroot/routes/20120422/OldTownAlexandriaVicinity.pdf

by MLD on Aug 28, 2012 12:26 pm • linkreport

"Wow, lots of people on here complaining about the transit in their area being called inadequate"

imagine someone saying "improvement X will make biking an option in Copenhagen"

Improvement X might be a great thing. It might really improve biking in Copenhagen. but the first reaction will be "whiskey tango foxtrot" and the second reaction will be "okay article, but why the silly headline?"

Old Town is to transit in NoVa, as Copenhagen is to biking.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 28, 2012 12:35 pm • linkreport

FYI, if you are looking for mid-day service between the Metro and Old Town, there is a free DASH shuttle that runs frequently (every 10 minutes or so) from 11:30 AM to 2PM Mon-Fri. It picks up on the Carlyle Campus (USPTO Headquarters, about 5 minute walk from the King Street Metro) and drops off at various points in Old Town.

http://www.dashbus.com/uploadedFiles/DASH-wwwroot/routes/lunchloop.pdf

by Scoot on Aug 28, 2012 12:56 pm • linkreport

@MLD

The AT 2 and 5 are there to service Canal Center, which is a major employment center. The AT 2 takes that slightly different route to stop at the major apartment/condo complexes up there (which are also serviced by the 4). That's the kind of overlap they do on purpose so even though the buses don't run as frequently you'd like, there's more than one option. Combined with the staggared schedule, it helps.

It's not perfect or ideal (and no one has claimed such), but it's not inadequate, unworkable or not an option. And to have it called such by someone who (apparently) hasn't actually put any effort into figuring out the system (which is actually better than most of Northern Virginia and many parts of DC...a point no one has contested) is annoying at best and demonstrative of a very real, continuing and pervasive bias (toward the very narrow worldview that only city centers are good and "workable" places) on the part of the author and blog at worst.

by Catherine on Aug 28, 2012 1:01 pm • linkreport

@catherine

I think Dan Reeds frequent posts on MoCo show a real sensitivity to issues of urbanism and walkability in nonDC jurisdictions. I think the problem with NoVa is just that no one more intimate with NoVa is regularly posting (the guy who posts about Rte 1 does a good job, but his specialty is rte 1 and related FFX initiatives) and we have had some really fascinating things from ron krupicka on City of alex, but he seems to be busy now ;) .

Since I am not volunteering to post (and never did my promised post on the lessons of the heat wave) I feel like I shouldnt critize the coverage of NoVa. Perhaps you would like to post?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 28, 2012 1:34 pm • linkreport

Dare we say that while transit in Alexandria is great it could be greater?

by drumz on Aug 28, 2012 1:42 pm • linkreport

@AWalkerInTheCity,

I have posted before and have said that I'd be happy to post in the future. The only solicitations for contributions that have come my way are for issues and areas that I am not familiar with, and therefore have decided to not write about (an apparently unique choice among contributors, but my choice nonetheless).

And it's not the coverage of NoVa, it's great that they decided to cover CaBi's expansion into Alexandria. The choice to frame it in a negative context ("transit to Old Town is not a real option and this can fix it") is what I take issue with, and I find that to be a common choice of frame for non-DC jurisdictions by most of the contributors to this blog.

@drumz,

Yes. That would be appropriate. That’s not what was said, nor is it ever what is said.

by Catherine on Aug 28, 2012 2:06 pm • linkreport

"And it's not the coverage of NoVa, it's great that they decided to cover CaBi's expansion into Alexandria. The choice to frame it in a negative context ("transit to Old Town is not a real option and this can fix it") is what I take issue with"

I think in this case thats due to DA simply not being familiar enough with Old Town.

"I find that to be a common choice of frame for non-DC jurisdictions by most of the contributors to this blog."

Dan Reed certainly likes to post about what MoCO is doing WRONG, but thats not really different from the frequent complaints about what DC is doing wrong. The tone of this blog tends toward perfectionism, and tends not be satisfied with 'just okay' Sometimes thats a good thing, and sometimes (when someone can't recognize the best feasible compromise) its a bad thing.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 28, 2012 2:12 pm • linkreport

I guess I disagree with the perception of a constant negative tone. This is the first I recall of David writing about Alexandria, and most negative coverage I see of Va. are of the negative things that happen anywhere(NIMBY's, Sprawl-based policies et. al.) I just don't see the evidence of a general bias against Alexandria or Va. in general.

by drumz on Aug 28, 2012 2:26 pm • linkreport

I'm lost, where did you have trouble connecting to DC? Just take the MVT to 14th St Bridge and meander from there. I actually the trail connections in DC/NOVA far exceed those in suburban MD (think, you have semi-finished GBT, semi-RCP, and CCT--best one of the bunch).

by NE OT on Aug 28, 2012 4:06 pm • linkreport

As a regular DASH 3 and 10A/B rider, I am thrilled that CaBi is coming to Alexandria. The first set of stations won't be super useful for me, but if they proceed with the city's longer-term plan of setting up a station on S. Washington St, I'll be able to start/end my commute with a bike ride. Fabulous!

by ABVV on Aug 29, 2012 11:03 am • linkreport

Bikeshare: one more subsidy for the 1%.

by JAY on Aug 29, 2012 9:05 pm • linkreport

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